Three Degrees: The journey complete

April 13th, 2012
I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Three Degrees

Now is the moment to unify the composition a final time to complete the painting. I bring forth more color and detail in the two prominent houses, detailing the windows and doors. I work quickly, but methodically. I do not want to overstate any detail areas, so that they become too noticeable, they are part of the whole, nothing more, nothing less. I also bring forth more color and some subtle details in the peripheral houses as well. I then put in the trees on the left using quick gestural brush strokes. I didn’t work on the trees until I was happy with the houses behind them.

As careful as I was with the buildings and background, I abandoned all caution and attacked the snow in the same way I did early on with the sky. I used lots of water, and applied color in broad strokes. I then tightened things down to where I used less water and more pigment in increasing proportions. It is subtle, and you must be respectful of painting snow, there is little room for error. Adjusting for light and shadow was the final piece, and I set aside my brushes.

In Eastern philosophy there are many references to walking the path. It is an allusion to perseverance, and overcoming both physical and mental challenges to reach your goals. This painting is the path I chose. It was a test for me as an artist, and it broadened my knowledge of myself as much as it did my watercolor knowledge and experience. I am pleased with the results.

Thank you for walking the path with me on my blog.


Three Degrees: Fifth Wash—Harmony Perceived and Captured

April 6th, 2012
I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

3 Degrees 5th

For this phase, I pull all the elements into a tighter cohesive whole. I build on the previous layers of color, defining the elements of the composition, using the same basic blues as before. I work more deliberately in this phase, bringing out the essential features of the houses, still using fluid washes, but adding pigment a bit more than before. I also tone down the highlights areas on the buildings using a very pale combination of Cerulean and Cobalt blue. I don’t want the highlight areas to compete, I want them as a subtle contrast.

The windows and doors will be an important element in this painting, and I work carefully on these. I want a mosaic of darker areas to lead your eye through the relatively uniform colors of the houses, like small stepping stones across a shallow creek. I planned this in my sketches, trying different combinations, and like the movement and geometric qualities they bring to the composition.

I don’t rush, this is important, but I also do not overwork or overstate any area. It is balance that is fundamental to any watercolor painting, but more so for a white on white composition. You can’t be timid, but aggression could be fatal. It is a harmony you must perceive and then capture.


Three Degrees: Fourth Wash—Patience is Required

April 4th, 2012
I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

3 Degrees 4th

This is a building process, and for this particular painting, I am moving very deliberately. That is not to say that I don’t use brushwork to move quickly at times to get uniform color, but this a careful process. In a white on white painting, you build subtle layers, adding colors in lighter applications than in other subjects. You can always darken subsequent layers, but you can’t go back and lighten. Well it’s possible, it’s just not desirable.

I progressively add more color to areas, moving over the entire painting, keeping the overall scene in mind at all times. I work in the houses across the street, and develop the far houses to the right as well. I also spend a good amount of time on the largest house. This will become the basis for the rest of the painting. It is the largest area of color other than the snow, and it will drive the color and hue of the other house in the middle, as well as the peripheral houses. I use more Indigo and Cobalt here, still using diluted pigments, but introducing darker hues. I keep it subtle and under control, thinking ahead to how I want these layers to build to the final. I step back frequently from the easel, and critically evaluate what is happening, this is important. You can’t rush.


Three Degrees: Laying the Foundation

April 1st, 2012
I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

3 Degrees 3rd Wash

Once the snow area is indicated with my base wash of color, I use the same colors for the houses. I move quickly here, striving for a unity of hue and color, and harmony of the snow and the white buildings. I also establish some highlight areas in certain areas of the buildings and snow. I pay attention here to light and shadow in the peripheral houses that are farther in the distance and across the street. These will give balance to the larger elements as I progress.

This is not the most glamorous part of the painting process, but it is a critical element of the whole, and I am careful here to get it right. The tendency is to rush through this phase, but you must resist and prepare carefully, for everything will be built on what is done here. It is like building a home, if you rush through and cut corners when laying the foundation, the integrity of the finished building will be compromised, and serious flaws are the result. The same is true for watercolor.


Three Degrees: Second Wash—Forming Colors

March 30th, 2012
I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

3 Degrees 2nd Wash

While the paper was still wet, I proceed with the background hills, adding darker colors of Burnt Sienna and Davy’s Gray to define the trees. Some areas I added more color, other areas were more water than pigment. My goal was to get a harmony of textures that would accurately depict the winter trees on the hills without getting too detailed, it is a suggestion and I let the watercolor work for me in this area. I also paid attention to the lighting on the hills to depict the early morning sun. Once I was satisfied, I stopped, and will not go back into it for the remainder of the painting.

I used masking fluid to block out the bottom parts of the buildings, and then used a wet wash of Cobalt Blue and Cerulean Blue to lay down the base colors for the snow. It is important at this stage to establish the light hues of blue I will use throughout the painting, as the three colors of blue I will use, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue and Indigo Blue, will be the dominate colors of the houses and snow. A white on white painting requires me to move slowly and build up layers of color in a subtle way, keeping in mind the whole, not getting ahead of the rest of the painting in any one area. That being said, I am always thinking ahead in my mind, forming the colors and layers I will build upon the foundation I have laid down in this stage for the upcoming stages. It is a constant mental exercise.


Three Degrees: First Wash—Setting the Tone

March 28th, 2012
I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Three Degrees first  wash

I remember in college drawing a white linen sheet draped over various interesting forms and shapes lit very deliberately from different intensities and angles. It was always a new challenge, and I liked these exercises very much. It stretched your capabilities, which I feel is essential as an artist. A white on white painting is as much perception and focus, as it is actual painting.

As I always say, in a landscape painting, the sky sets the tone for the rest of the painting, and I wanted the mood of this painting to be a cold, sunny early morning.

I used a very fluid wash of cadmium yellow and cobalt blue, adding pigment as needed. I did not overstate the colors, this would go against what I am trying to achieve for the sky, and in a broader sense, the entire painting. I move quickly in this stage, working the sky and hills in a wet wash, blending the edge of the hills and sky to get a diffused look. I let the water and pigment do their thing, and move on to the next step.


Three Degrees: Preliminary sketch

March 26th, 2012
I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Photo: Winter Houses Sketch

A white on white composition is a supreme challenge to any artist in any media. It forces the artist to see beyond light, shadow and color and perceive the subtle ways they interact. It stretches the boundaries of an artist’s so-called comfort zone, which I am always trying to do in my art.

I love this composition, and did a few quick preliminary sketches to get it just how I wanted before making the final sketch to use as the basis for my painting. I feel the angles of the buildings will give the painting interest and movement, and the interaction of the snow and white houses will make this a dynamic piece.

Please follow me on my blog as I create as this painting. It will be a great challenge, and I am looking forward to it.


Tuesday: The end of a fulfilling journey

December 28th, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Tuesday 3

Now that the foundation has been established to my satisfaction, I enter the final phase, building on the foundation to bring this painting to completion. This always takes the longest amount of time, and I proceed with care. I don’t want to lose the spontaneity I achieved with the previous work, but I also want to tighten up and clarify the elements into a cohesive whole. It is about balance and harmony.

I concentrate first on the larger buildings on either side, intensifying color, and lighting, bringing out details. Then I work on the buildings and houses in the middle distance, again bridging the space between the two prominent masses of shapes and colors on either side.

I work on the snow last. I want to have the mood, lighting and color all set before I tie it all together with the snow. It is this area that will make or break the painting, and it must be done with excellence and integrity. I put form and lighting in the snow using colors I used in the sky. I work very carefully and deliberately on the tire and foot tracks, slowly building detail.

When I am at this stage of any painting, I spend equal time evaluating and painting. I step back from the easel often, to look at each detail, each element and see how it all contributes to the whole. You cannot rush this. I add, then stop and evaluate, add and evaluate over and over, until I am satisfied this painting has achieved the vision I initially had for it.

I am very happy with this painting, I feel I achieved the goals I set for it. It was a great challenge and a very fulfilling journey. Thanks for joining me as I worked.


Tuesday: Time for unification

December 25th, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Tuesday

Now it is time to unify the rest of the painting by establishing the snow. This is fairly straightforward and simple, but when painting snow you must always be careful. Snow is a very tricky surface to work with, very similar to water in my opinion. As when painting water, you must be vigilant and aware at all times when painting snow, a misstep, and you can lose the feeling of the surface, and therefore the believability of the snow, or water. Once you lose that believability, there is no way to recover it, and the painting has failed. There is a lot on the line.

At this stage, I am looking to accomplish two things. First I want to establish the overall lighting and atmosphere of the painting, and I do this by repeating colors from the sky in the snow in subtle ways. Secondly, I want to establish the overall shape and form of the snow. Again, as in the previous step, this is a foundation upon which I will build the snow areas with additional washes of color. Because of this, I allow a good portion of the snow to remain white at this stage.

I work fast here, never lingering in one area, working with light and shadow, keeping the edges soft, using lots of water. This completes the foundation of the painting. It is a cardinal rule; without a strong foundation, you cannot build a strong painting. This is true for anything in life, not just art.


Tuesday: Thinking shapes of color

December 23rd, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Tuesday 2

After the sky has dried completely, and the masking fluid is removed, it is time to establish the foundation for the painting. This is most important. I work from the distant back to the front of a painting, laying areas of color that I will build upon as the painting progresses. I work fast here – thinking shapes of color, not buildings, keeping it loose.

I also establish depth and distance by going into some detail in the background houses and skyline. The snow on the roofs of the middle distance buildings will be a very important visual in the painting, so I take care to render this area with sharper detail, but still keeping an overall looseness, remembering that I will build color and tone on top of this area. Equally important at this early stage of work is the unifying aspect the distant and middle distant buildings have. They are a visual bridge connecting the larger, stronger elements on each side of the painting.

This is a critical step in the painting, but it is important to realize that while this step must not be overlooked, it also must not be overworked. Time to move on.


Tuesday: Trust what happens

December 21st, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Tuesday 1

The sky is always important in a landscape, and although I want a neutral, almost bland sky, I also want it to be a very strong and central element in this painting.

After I transfer my sketch to the watercolor paper, I block out the buildings and other essential elements with masking fluid. Now I’m ready.

Since I want a muted and plain feel for this painting, I will work with a limited pallet and for the sky, will use colors that will be repeated in other areas of the painting. This gives it unity and balance. I squeeze out Cobalt Blue, Indigo Blue, Davy’s Gray and Cadmium Yellow onto my pallet, grab my favorite large brushes, and then before starting, I take time to contemplate how the sky will look and how to achieve it. I believe very strongly in the mental aspect of creating art, it is every bit as important as technique and composition, and if neglected in any art, not just painting, shows as a deficiency very plainly.

One of the many things I love about watercolor is that there are times when you just have to let it all go and trust what happens, and this is very true of painting skies. After analyzing what you want to happen, and focusing this energy, you still need the courage and confidence to abandon control and let watercolor do what it does, according to its nature. I use lots of water, working quickly, keeping the yellow as a constant base tone, then washing in the other colors overtop. I want a seamless harmony of the colors, and I let the water and pigment work together to achieve it. I do not add unneeded color and do not force things, I let it play out, with confidence in the outcome.


Tuesday: The master drawing

December 20th, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Sketch for painting "Tuesday"

Pittsburgh offers a wealth of artistic reference for an artist with my interests and style. The neighborhoods cling to the surrounding hills that overlook the city skyline, presenting unique opportunities for expression. I wanted a composition that embodied a sense of ordinary, everyday life and forms with a sense of the unique, the unnoticed, the beautiful.

Eye movement and composition will be important factors for this painting, as they are for every painting I create. I want the end result to draw the viewer into and through the painting, like they were walking down the street. I concentrate on shapes and the arrangement of shapes and color, reducing the realistic to simple abstract forms. While drawing, I focus on each detail, but never lose sight of the overall whole. I want a mosaic of shapes and color to flow through this painting, combined with strong eye movement and visual tension.

I drew many quick sketches for this painting, using overlays of tracing paper until I was happy with the composition, before working out in pencil the final or master drawing.


Reflections on life: A fun journey

July 26th, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

reflections6

I proceed from the middle ground to the foreground, continuing the technique I used for the middle ground. The only changes are in the details; I put more definition in the snow and grasses.

The cattails and long grass at the edge of the pond present a challenge; they must be a strong element of the painting, but not overpowering or dominant. I worked loose and quick, depicting the essence and form, not getting caught up in detail. I kept the paint fairly fluid, blending colors as I applied them to the paper, not on the palette, and used quick, gestural brushstrokes.

I take time at this phase to frequently look at the painting and its progress, evaluating each section I have just worked on. There is a tendency to over-detail areas close to the viewer, and I did not want this. When I felt I had the right look, feel, balance and harmony, I laid my brushes down.

This was a very satisfying painting for me, and I am pleased with the way I met the challenges before me and the results of my effort, as was my client. It was a fun journey, and I am honored and grateful that you traveled with me.


Reflections on life: Middle ground

July 25th, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Reflections 5

I now work on tying in the middle ground to the pond. This is a fairly straightforward process, moving from the back to the front. I integrate the colors of the sky into certain areas of the snow, in other places I leave the white of the paper. This gives the snow a vibrant quality, areas of sparking light, others reflective of the sky. The rule here is subtle, not overpowering; I don’t want to overwork this area, it is a visual transition area and should harmonize, not compete with the other elements of the painting.


Reflections on life: Make-or-break phase

July 23rd, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

Reflections 4

It is said a still mind perfectly reflects the cosmos like a still pond. I had to keep my mind on this truism as I painted the reflections on the pond surface. I was totally absorbed, and this helped me to see the reflections and their corresponding trees in the middle ground.

Because of the perfect stillness of the pond, there were very clear and detailed reflections, and I painted these with the same technique I painted the trees they reflect. While it is not necessary to reproduce the reflections in a clinically exact version, they must be totally believable and match up visually.

I am careful here; this is the make-or-break phase of the painting. This is where I like to live; pushing my ability and creativity with the inherent risks that go with it. To me that’s what watercolor is all about.


Reflections on life: Now for the pond

July 22nd, 2011

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.
Reflections 3

Now for the pond. After blocking out the snowy edge of the pond with masking fluid, I wet the entire area to be painted twice; first with horizontal strokes, second with vertical strokes to prepare for a very fluid application of paint.

I establish the light which corresponds with the sky, and then build up progressively heavier washes of Cobalt and Indigo blue. The main objective for me at this stage is to make a seamless and smooth blending of the pigments to reflect the subtle tones of the sky.

The art of painting is like the art of cooking…you must know what individual elements are to be combined, and the proper amounts of each. You must always have the end result in mind, a perfect harmony of all elements. And this harmony depends on balance. You must not overpower one element, or it will dominate and ruin the end result. Conversely, you must not under apply an element, or it will be insignificant. Harmony and balance is true in all forms.


Reflections on life: Subtle Variations

July 20th, 2011

Reflections 2

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.
Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.
Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.

I work into the closer trees on the right; these will establish the core of the reflections in the pond. On these trees, there is more detail in the branches, but I still need to keep it loose…back to careful randomness! I work fast here, spontaneity being the key. I’m using only Davy’s Gray and Indigo Blue now. I will use only four pigments throughout this painting; I am focusing on the subtle interplay ofthese colors to achieve the mood I want.

Winter scenes obviously do not have the endless variations of color and tone as say, a spring scene would have, but it is not that simple. The effect of the subdued winter light makes it extremely important to study and recognize the subtle variations it creates in the landscape, and use these to infuse the painting with life and feeling.

Keeping it simple, adding and subtracting as I feel, I move through this phase fairly quickly.


Reflections on life: First Wash

July 18th, 2011

Reflections 1

The sky is extremely important in this painting, as it is in all landscape paintings. It will create the mood and temperature for the scene, and will also be a baseline for the tones and hues in the pond reflections later on in the painting. There will be a delicate balance between the pond and the sky, the pond almost twice as dark and rich as the sky.

I washed cadmium yellow, cobalt blue and indigo blue in a very wet application, using large brushes and adding pigment as needed, keeping the paper very wet and the pigments fluid. It is very important to remember that the wash of colors applied will dry lighter in value than what you observe wet.

After I was satisfied with the lighting and mood of the sky, I washed in the distant tree line while the sky wash was still very wet to get a blending of the trees into the sky, I want it to be subtle and give a sense of distance from the foreground. I then moved forward a bit to define the next line of trees in the middle ground of the painting. I employ a technique I call “careful randomness” for the small branches of the trees. Although a major oxymoron, it describes the balance of water and drybrush I employed. I sometimes let the paint go very rigid only to soften with water in selected places, and vice versa. I was spontaneous as I progressed, keeping it loose, not spending a lot of time in any one area, leaving it to instinct.


Reflections on life: Preliminary Sketch

July 17th, 2011
Relections-sketch

As I do for all my paintings, I created a detailed sketch of the scene. I work on values and composition, a dry run, so to speak, for how I will paint the scene. As I draw, I think ahead to how I want the painting to look, and how I will approach certain aspects and areas of the painting. This helps me prepare for the act of creating the painting. I have always maintained that painting is as much a mental and spiritual exercise as it is the physical act of creating with paint, paper, brush and water.

Upon approval of the sketch, I am ready to begin.


Reflections on life

July 15th, 2011
Pond In Winter
My client has a beautiful farm tucked away in the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania. I have had the chance to see and experience the peace and calming essence of the land on a few occasions, and I always come away with a sense of renewal and appreciation for nature.
When this commission was first proposed to me, she sent me several wonderful pictures of the central area of their farm, which is a pond. All of the photos showed a wonderful artistic eye, and any one would have made a great painting. I chose two that I felt would be a great challenge for me as well as make a good painting capturing the mood and essence of the scene. We agreed on the one shown.

A Moment in Life.

March 8th, 2011

Coming home from work about 6am one morning, I needed to stop for gas. I was not happy, the pricewas outrageous, and there was a cold steady rain falling, making the dark pre-dawn seem all the more dismal. I wanted nothing more than to get home to a warm bed.

The place I stopped was one of those big mega service in-out franchise places. Get what you need andget out, no personality but very effective. Bright lights and soft music helped ease the pain of the high prices. You know the place, we’ve all been there.

As I pulled up to the pumps, to my left I saw two dogs ,cold, wet and shivering , obviously abandoned, huddled by the pumps. I cannot express the sadness, the utter aloneness they conveyed. They were two, had been for maybe their entire lives, and now they were on their own, their future uncertain. But they stayed there keeping each other warm, waiting faithfully for their owners, the people in their lives that they had put their ultimate and unwavering trust in to return. Their sadness and resolve split the dreary darkness, I could not leave them. Their sorrow and uncertainty cut me deeply.

They were well trained and behaved, not a bit of suspicion or distrust in them. They reached out to me, probably the only person who had even given them a thought. They knew it was a desperate situation for them, but they didn’t know what else to do. They kept waiting, through cold and damp, no other alternatives. They would hold out hope that those who left them would return. The smaller dog, some sort of terrier was more outgoing; he (or she) came to me wanting contact, love. But he would not go far from his companion, a pretty black and white mutt that had some border collie in him (or her). I petted them both, trying to sooth them, to let them know that someone cared.

My heart sank, sank into darkness and despair. I would take them home with me in a minute, but living in an apartment, my landlord had already expressed his displeasure with pets. It was all about his assets, his rules. He would never see the greater cause, just as all the people who had pulled up for fuel and steadfastly ignored those dogs while I was there.

The attendant inside said the police had been called and the animal rescue league would take care ofthe dogs. We all know what that meant. I looked in those brown eyes, both dogs had them, and saw the utter realization that they were doomed, but they steadfastly stuck by each other, to the end if need be. They huddled together to keep warm, all the time looking at me with those imploring eyes. To see their eyes was to see creation-we are no different, we are all one.

Just then a couple in an SUV pulled up for gas. They were immediately totally concerned for the dogs, as I was. “How could someone do this?” While we all petted the dogs, they made the decision…”What will we name them?” There was no question they would take the dogs. Their compassion was like mine but they had the means to do something. By this time a policeman had arrived, and although genuinely concerned for the dogs, he could do nothing. But he allowed these wonderful folks to take the dogs, obviously going against regulations. I helped the people get the dogs in the back of their SUV. I’m sure the dirt and wet dog smell will permeate the vehicle for some time, but it didn’t matter to any of us. In a small way natural compassion, that which we are all born with, had triumphed, had saved fellow beings who were on the knife edge, cold, shivering and in despair. Their very lives hung in the balance, and we were able to make a difference.

God bless those two people who welcomed those two dogs. Their lives will be changed, but greatly enriched. We are all children of the universe, the same as the stars, the same as a common stone.

I waved as they left, then went to fill up my truck. And you know what? The outrageous price didn’t make a difference at all, it just didn’t matter.


Gust Front: Final strokes

March 3rd, 2011

Gust Front

As you can tell from the previous image, this stage involved a lot of work, and took quite a while to bring to completion. I worked very carefully and deliberately on the bridge structure, starting with the areas highest up and farthest to the back and working down to the areas in front, adding more detail as I progress towards the front.

In watercolor, there is a constant tension of control and looseness, and it is up to the individual artist to use that tension to best fit his or her style. In the two main beams of the bridge, I wanted to create a weathered, rusted look, and I used this tension to allow the paint and water to mix together true to their nature while still controlling the overall effect.

The last area was the tracks and ties, adding detail and color. I always take a good amount of time after finishing a painting to evaluate and assess it. I look at it in different lighting, to make sure the effect is how I want it. Once I’m satisfied, I sign the painting and start thinking about my next adventure.

I am very happy with Gust Front, I feel it conveys the mood I want, and it achieved my goal of a unique composition. Thanks for joining me as I worked on it.


Gust Front: Under tone of color

March 1st, 2011

GF3

This step is pretty straightforward. I establish the under tone of color for the bridge using a thin, transparent wash of Indian Red. I work quickly, as I do not want this wash to affect the color beneath it and disturb its uniformity.


Gust Front: First washes – Power and gometry

February 26th, 2011

Gust Front - first washes

This painting is all about power and geometry. The intense power of the approaching storm viewed through the angles of the bridge.

I transferred my sketch to the watercolor paper, then used masking fluid to block out thebridge. The entire sky, bank and river will have to be completed before I can work on the bridge.

I wet the entire paper with a heavy wash of clear water, then proceed to lay color down starting in the sky then moving to the trees on the opposite bank, then the water of the river. As is always the case at this stage, I work quickly using large brushes, building up color and form going from light to dark color. I want the stormy sky to be dramatic and ominous. I also want a subtle direction in the definition of the turbulent clouds to lead your eye to the left support beam of the bridge at a roughly perpendicular angle to thedirection of the beam. I concentrate on the form and movement of the clouds, building color intensity as I go.

I want the river to reflect the light still shining ahead of the storm front somewhere out of  view to the right. This achieves two effects for me; first it provides a contrast to the dark clouds, and second it gives the idea of a fast moving storm, overtaking all in its path. The trees provide a boundary between the water and sky. After I am satisfied with what I have achieved, I stop. You never want to overwork a painting in watercolor.


Gust Front: Preliminary pencil sketch

February 25th, 2011

Gust Front

I am always interested in presenting a unique view in a painting, making use of eye movement to draw the viewer into the composition. The main focus of this painting will be on segmenting the entire scene into shapes of different sizes, mostly triangles, using the bridge and the patterns in its superstructure.

The perspective was tricky in the sketch, owing to the fact that the two main beams were not even due to the bank of the river. The left beam is actually about 15 feet ahead of the beam on the right, which made the crossmembers closest to the end angle at a different plane than the ones farther back on the bridge. The perspective does unify the farther you progress from the bank.

It is another great challenge, one I am looking forward to resolving. Travel along with me as I create this painting titled “Gust Front”.

Bryce